For its inaugural essay contest, The Historic New Orleans Collection asks students in grades 6-12 to reflect on experiences that have inspired them to create change.

Historical change doesn't just happen on its own. It occurs when individuals find the courage to fight for what they believe in. Don Hubbard, a civil rights activist and community organizer who led nonviolent protests around New Orleans during the 1960s, told THNOC's "NOLA Resistance" oral history project that he was

"...always a kid who wanted to know why. Why, momma, why we can't sit in the front of the streetcar? Why can't we ride in front of the bus? My mother always—and it stuck with me—she always had one answer. She said, "Baby, they're waiting for you to change it."

Where do you see yourself fitting in the history books? In a short essay, tell us about your role as a change-maker. You might consider:

  • Events you have witnessed (in your school or community, or even at the national or international level) that have inspired you to take action.
  • People (historical figures, family members, friends, or anyone else) whose words or actions have touched your life.
  • Historical movements or ideas that have shaped the way you think about the world today.

We hope to see essays that address personal experiences, rather than research papers. Essays will be judged on originality, narrative cohesion, historical awareness, grammar, spelling, and punctuation. All submitted essays will be read and evaluated by a panel of museum staff.



  • The contest is open to students in grades 6–12 in the United States and US territories.
  • Each essay should include a title.
  • Each essay should be 500 words or less, not including a title. 
  • Each student may submit only one essay.
  • Each essay should use a 12-point font and should be submitted as a Microsoft Word document or PDF.
  • Each essay must be a wholly original work composed by the submitter. Any essay that is found to be plagiarized in whole or in part will be immediately disqualified.
  • The contest will open on February 3, 2020, and close on March 13, 2020. Essays must be submitted by midnight on Friday, March 13, 2020.



A panel of THNOC staff will select winning essays from each of two categories: middle school (grades 6–8) and high school (grades 9–12). Winners will receive a monetary prize, and their essays will be published on THNOC's website. The winning essayists will receive:

  • $250 for first place
  • $150 for second place
  • $100 for third place